Transcriptional response of vaginal epithelial cells to medroxyprogesterone acetate treatment results in decreased barrier integrity
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Medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) is a frequently used hormonal contraceptive that has been shown to significantly increase HIV-1 susceptibility by approximately 40 %. However, the underlying mechanism by which this occurs remains unknown. Here, we examined the biological response to MPA by vaginal epithelial cells, the first cells to encounter HIV-1 during sexual transmission, in order to understand the potential mechanism(s) of MPA-mediated increase of HIV-1 infection. Using microarray analysis and in vitro assays, we characterized the response of vaginal epithelial cells, grown in biologically relevant air-liquid interface (ALI) cultures, to physiological levels of female sex hormones, estradiol (E2), progesterone (P4), or MPA. Transcriptional profiling of E2, P4 or MPA-treated vaginal epithelial cells indicated unique transcriptional profiles associated with each hormone. MPA treatment increased transcripts of genes related to cholesterol/sterol synthesis and decreased transcripts related to cell division and cell-cell adhesion, results not seen with E2 or P4 treatments. MPA treatment also resulted in unique gene expression indicative of decreased barrier integrity. Functional assays confirmed that MPA, but not E2 or P4 treatments, resulted in increased epithelial barrier permeability and inhibited cell cycle progression. The effects of MPA on vaginal epithelial cells seen in this study may help explain the increase of HIV-1 infection in women who use MPA as a hormonal contraceptive.
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